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Much of what happens round here is ridiculous, random, incomprehensible. But sometimes something happens that makes your heart soar. That was today.

This has been called Swallowtail Hill for hundreds of years. Some people mistakenly think it’s something to do with butterflies, but as any fule no, Swallowtail Butterflies mainly live in the reed beds of Norfolk, not the windswept wooded clay hills of the Weald. It’s called that because it’s the highest point of land for miles, and elderly neighbours tell us of the thousands of swallows which gathered here each Autumn, lining the telephone wires, waiting for some unheard signal to head over Europe, the straits of Gibraltar, the Sahara, and every country between that and South Africa, for a nice warm winter. When we arrived here to live full time, five years ago, there had been no swallows for years. Then, the first spring we were here, a pair turned up and built their clay and twig underhang nest in the open part of the Big Barn. They reared eight young in two broods, and set off that Autumn. Two returned the next year. And so on. And today, a pair arrived. What happens to the other six I have no idea. An attrition rate of 80 percent wouldn’t be surprising given what these tiny, spectacularly aerobatic birds go through. But they’re here – soaring and swooping over the meadows, guzzling insects, and repairing the nest. The swallows and us are very connected. They ground us here. I can understand animism far more than any contemporary organised religion because of them, and because of here.

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